Henry James Style Analysis
Henry James’ fictional piece, “The Funeral” expresses tones of both sardonic pleasure
and condescension to accentuate his haughty perspective on the pitiful, humble proletariats who
grieve for a deceased man. During the ceremony, the narrator refuses to acknowledge the service
as a tragedy but as a comedy. While lacking compassion and fulfilled with an egotistical mindset,
the narrator ridicules and scrutinizes the attendees, who are only oblivious by his bemusement.
Through the use of satirical diction, the author emphasizes the narrator’s cynical
contentment as well as his entertainment towards the crowd’s insufficient socioeconomic status.
After identifying the deceased man as Mr. George Odger, the narrator illustrates the scene as a
“spectacle sorry to miss,” pompously evaluates the “box at a play,” and categorizes it as an
oxymoronic “serious comedy.” Viewing this grievance as a “spectacle,” the outsider conveys
such word with a pleasurable connotation. He employs a simile of a play in comparison to the
funeral to highlight its entertainment, as he critiques at the “perfect distance.” Rather than
evoking amusement, his mockery of the feeble lower class captures sympathy for the masses,
who despite their limited wealth still managed to create what they believe to be honorable. As
the narrator indirectly advertises his wealth, he sneers at the “shabbier English types” whom the
newspaper characterizes as the “dregs” and “rabble” of the population. The author's effective use
of diction highlights the distinction between the narrator and those at the funeral. This further
emphasizes the narrator’s superior position in society and reinforces his belief that there are
indeed two "types" of Englishmen--the unprivileged and the prosperous. Blatantly entertained by
the inferior, he compares the lower class as useless remains; while other individuals flourish up
the social hierarchy, the rest aggregate into an accumulation of failures. The narrator’s satirical
diction highlights his irreverence and humor towards the undesirable class.
The narrator incorporates detail to illuminate his mockery and patronizing superiority. He
peers at what seems “to be magnificent, the finest of the year,” while the crowd “[made...